Collagen is a structural protein and is the most abundant protein present in the human body. Collagen's main function is to maintain connective tissue strength and health; this includes the tendons, which have collagen crosslinks to help protect the joints from high-impact stress. Our collagen levels drop as we age, but fortunately, some supplements can be purchased and taken orally. So, does collagen for joints work? That’s what we’re going to explore in this article.
Collagen is a structural protein present in the body that maintains the health and strength of the joints, connective tissues, and cartilage.
There are 28 types of collagen, but Type 2 is the most common type present in cartilage.
Two main dietary collagen supplements include hydrolyzed collagen at a daily dose of 1-10 g and undenatured type II collagen at a daily dose of 0.1–10 mg.
Collagen for joints is not recommended for people who must restrict their protein intake for certain conditions, like gout.
Why do you need collagen?
Our musculoskeletal structures—which include our skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage—form connective tissue, which requires collagen. Without collagen, these body parts do not have the strength and flexibility to function properly.
Collagen is composed mostly of three amino acids, including glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. The molecules of the 28 different types of collagen are arranged according to how the body uses them.
Here are the most common types of collagen:
- Type I, the most common type, is found in your skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
- Type II makes up about 90% of the collagen in our cartilage.
- Type III is in the skin's middle layer (dermis), muscles, and blood vessels.
- Type IV is a thin layer of tissue lining the kidneys, lungs, intestines, and eyes.
- Type V is present on hair and cell surfaces.
As we age, the body makes less collagen. It especially drops for females after menopause and after 60 years of age for males.
Benefits of taking collagen for joint health
The main purpose of taking collagen is to resupply our body's collagen supply, which has been lowered for various reasons. This supply is needed to produce the required amount of connective tissue.
There are several ways to take collagen supplements for joints, including in liquid form, powder, and tablets (pills).
Here are some other benefits of taking collagen for joints:
- Production of connective tissue, especially cartilage.
- It helps in the preservation of cartilage structure to prevent osteoarthritis.
Prevents autoimmune inflammation response seen in rheumatoid arthritis.
Types of collagen taken as supplements
If you are considering to take collagen as a supplement, it is recommended to pick from two types of collagen that might help with joint pain:
- Hydrolyzed collagen. It is also known as collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptides. In this type of supplement, full-length collagen is broken down into peptides (a short chain of amino acids) by a process called hydrolysis.
- Undenatured type II collagen. It helps with the restoration and repair of connective tissue around the joints, tendons, and ligaments. This type of collagen supplement is not broken down and is not as well absorbed as hydrolyzed collagen. Collagen type II is found in abundance in chicken cartilage.
For joint health, both of the above types of collagen supplements will work. Further studies are needed, but it appears that both types are beneficial.
What to know when taking collagen for joints
Collagen supplements are relatively safe, with no known drug interactions. Taking collagen for joints will not affect the blood level or effectiveness of any prescription or over-the-counter drug. If you take any medications, you do not need to be concerned that collagen will interfere with its effectiveness or cause the medication to become toxic.
Dosage and frequency
The dose of hydroxylated collagen is 1-10 g per day in no exact regimen, while the recommended dose of type II collagen is 0.1–10 mg daily. The current consensus is that taking less than 10 mg per day of type II is reasonably safe.
Certain commercial suppliers advise using collagen supplements for two to three months, then taking a one to two-month hiatus. However, there are no official guidelines for how long you should take the collagen and how long to be off the supplements.
Potential side effects of using collagen
Side effects of using collagen for joints include the following:
Contraindications for collagen use
While collagen supplements are generally considered safe, there are a few instances where they may be contraindicated:
- Individuals with allergies or sensitivities to specific collagen sources, such as fish, shellfish, or eggs, should avoid collagen supplements.
- If a person has a medical condition that requires them to limit their protein intake, such as gout.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women should exercise caution before consuming collagen due to limited research on its safety during these periods.
Collagen improves joint health by providing the building blocks for cartilage and reducing inflammation. Cartilage is a smooth tissue that cushions the ends of bones and helps to prevent joint pain. Inflammation can damage cartilage and contribute to joint pain. Collagen for joint pain is generally considered safe for most people.
What type of collagen should I take to relieve joint pain?
As mentioned above, you can take either hydrolyzed collagen or type II collagen. Since there are no clear studies on the single best type, you can try different types and see which works best.
Can I take different collagen types together?
Yes, you can take different types together as long as you take less than the maximum dose of each type.
When will I see joint pain improvement after taking collagen?
There's no exact time frame for when you will see joint improvement after taking collagen. However, if you've been taking it for about a year, taking it 2-3 months at a time with 1-2 month breaks, and see no improvement, we recommend you stop the supplements.
- Arthritis.org. Can Collagen Supplements Help Arthritis?
- National Library of Medicine. Collagen Supplementation for Joint Health: The Link between Composition and Scientific Knowledge.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Considering collagen drinks and supplements?